I’m Not A Nazi, I’m Temporarily Disabled

It’s been a sod of a week. I’ve done a lot less running than I should have done. I’ve done a lot more swearing than is strictly necessary, even for me. I’ve accidentally done a Nazi salute. Tony Benn and Bob Crow died. Not a good week at all.

On the other hand, I’ve spent time with lovely people, had the best heart attack on a plate I’d had in ages on Thursday morning only to have it beaten this afternoon, spent quality time with my beautiful wife, run on the Roman Road for the first time this year and made a start on clearing out the jungle in my back garden. Gytha the Chicken is pleased with me, at least.

This was supposed to be my peak week of mileage on my marathon plan. Rest on Monday, 9 miles on Tuesday with some strides slipped in, 13 miles on Wednesday, 5 miles recovery on Thursday, 14 on Friday, 6 on Saturday and 22 today.

I had a problem nearly all week with limited mobility in my right shoulder. I must have slept awkwardly on it on Sunday night because it was sore on Monday morning. There wasn’t a problem with my arms but moving the shoulder led to stabbing pains down the front or the back of the arm depending on whether I wanted to move it backwards or forwards. It became worse each day. Typing on Tuesday was particularly comedic. I couldn’t reach the Y key on the keyboard without moving my right arm with my left hand.

I was coaching on Monday. Mile reps. I still had Sunday’s half marathon PB in my legs so I wasn’t going to be nailing every rep myself. Instead, I ran with the quickest group and paced them round. My Monday group isn’t as quick as Tuesday’s club sessions so I can keep up easily with all of them nearly all the time. What was a brisk pace for me was quite a hard rep for them. It was a really good recovery session for me.

Tuesday was 4 x 6:00 with 3:00 recoveries. Go out in one direction for the first rep and back the way you’ve come on the second. Try to push a little faster so you go beyond your start point. Same again on each successive rep. I found running hard quite difficult because I couldn’t swing both arms freely. I was well off the pace of the quickest group. Only on the final rep did I give it a proper go. I paid for it afterwards.

I had to drive to Lancaster on Wednesday morning after two nights of very poor sleep. I had meetings all day with academics in the Management School. I had to suppress a little yelp of pain very time I shook someone’s hand. I didn’t always succeed. “Hi! I’m Richard from Compass. It’s nice to meet you. Thaaaaaaaaaaarghaaank you for seeing me.”

The drive from Lancaster to Leeds that evening was properly miserable. I couldn’t reach the top of the steering wheel with my right hand until I adjusted the steering column downwards. The wheel was almost between my knees. I still couldn’t use my right arm to turn the wheel but at least I could rest my hand easily on it. Occasionally, I’d forget and drop my right hand from the wheel and whimper or yell or call Christ a cunt.

The thing about an injury like this is that it’s easy to forget you have it. It was seldom painful when I kept the shoulder still or moved it gently so when I was just walking around it was fine. More or less. The problems came when I moved it quickly or further than it wanted to go. When a cheery wave to a friend across the street turns into a Nazi salute and a yell of “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!” problems can arise. That’s all I’m saying.

Wednesday night was quite unpleasant. I struggled to eat dinner. I couldn’t quite raise my fork to my mouth. It got to just below my chin before I’d have to dip my head towards the delicious morsel of red snapper with a zesty lemon risotto. My glass of lime and soda was too heavy to lift. I had to leave it on the table and use a long straw.

Bob Crow died. I’m a supporter of strong trades unions playing a part in the running of successful enterprises. I’m really a 70s socialist. I remember learning about mixed economies and free collective bargaining. I don’t much like the class war but I have a soft spot for some class warriors. Bob Crow was one.

I don’t think Tony Benn would ever have taken part in anything so ungentle as class war. He was still an effective and passionate advocate for Labour without ever mounting a personal attack. I heard him speak on several occasions and had a taxi ride with him once. He spent almost the entire journey asking questions about me and what I did and who I was and where I came from and my parents and my family. I said at one point how moved I was by what he’d written when his wife had died and how much it had helped me when I was having some trouble with grieving. I wanted to hear him talk about challenging Roy Hattersley for the deputy leadership or about life in the Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet but he just wanted to hear about my life and interests. I’ll miss him but his family and his friends will miss him much, much more.

Good things started to happen on Thursday. Breakfast in the hotel was exceptional. Poached egg, bacon, sausage, black pudding, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, all very tasty. Piss-poor coffee as usual. I have yet to have a good cup of coffee in a hotel in Britain. Slightly odd orange juice. It made getting going after another night of poor sleep that much easier. I’d spent chunks of the awkward hours of Thursday morning really, really wanting to be at home in my own bed with my wife. My heart ached as much as my shoulder. I was using ibuprofen gel to relieve the pain and it didn’t really work. I was hoping for codeine gel. Or heroin gel. Fuck it, I’d have mugged a junkie for a fix at one point shortly after two on Thursday morning.

Thursday’s meetings passed with barely a whimper. “Hi, I’m Richard from Compass. Thank you for see – aargh – seeing me.” The drive home from Leeds took too long and I couldn’t go for my run when I got back but I had an early night without the ibuprofen gel smearing itself onto the bedsheets and pillow cases. I woke on Friday having slept for six uninterrupted hours. I had too much work to do to get out for a run that day.

Saturday marked Heidi and John’s leaving do from Cambridge parkrun. Not that they’re leaving. Heidi is stepping down as event director after four years. There were red wigs for her and fake mohicans and tattoos for John and it was fun. There was running and cake and a visit from PSH and the whole thing was simply marvellous. I had a nice run on heavy legs to log 22:36 for my first parkrun of the year.

In the afternoon, I did the Cambridge University Hare & Hounds’ Roman Road Run. Nine and a half miles from Horseheath to the Beechwoods at the end of Wort’s Causeway in Cambridge. I took it fairly steadily and logged 1:14:46. I was aiming for 1:16:30 so I was pleased. I was 8th home. It’s a handicap run. I was only overtaken by one guy who started 10 minutes behind me and he was flying. He came past on the final downhill stretch on the road once we left the Roman Road itself. I was beaten home by him, two people from my group and four from the group who set off five minutes ahead of me.

Saturday evening was spent at La Mimosa with Andy for his birthday. I’m not usually very sociable. I’m becoming a little more deaf and find it stressful to hear what people are saying in a crowded, noisy room. However, the company was lovely and nobody seemed to mind having to repeat what they were saying when we were trying to have a conversation. It was a late night though and I was very tired this morning. I haven’t run today but I have made a start on clearing out the back garden.

Good stuff and bad this week. It’ll all be over three weeks today. I just want to get it done now. I’m running well when I run. I don’t think missing my long run today is going to matter in the overall scheme of things. I’ve entered the Oakley 20 next Sunday. I’m not going to race it, especially as Becca says it’s a lumpy one which ruined her London Marathon a couple of years ago. I have some clubmates running and I can run around with them chatting all the way and pick up my hoodie to take to Manchester. Sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it?

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Week Whatever

I’m definitely losing track of time. My training diary is counting down. I only know how to count up. Subtraction isn’t my thing, man and I’m completely lost. So, it’s eight weeks to go to the race in Manchester and I’m not sure whether I’m in my ninth, tenth or possibly eleventh week of training. Things are becoming slightly weird.

In space, no-one can hear you scream. I’ve seen it on a film poster so it must be true. Hollywood wouldn’t lie to me. When you’re on the Roman Road, everyone in earshot can hear you swear when you almost lose a shoe in ankle-deep mud. I’m afraid I had a sense of humour failure towards the end of my run this afternoon. I had what some would call “a complete paddy” in what might pass for a paddy field. I’m not sure anyone would want to eat the rice grown at the top of Babraham Road but I think you could actually get a crop there right now.

In the gym, quite a lot of people can hear you whimper. I wore new running tights this morning. They had unexpected seams. There is nothing worse than a seam where you least expect it. Where I least expected it this morning was rubbing my right testicle. The Laws of Comedy dictate that the left bollock is always funnier than the right bollock. If my left bollock had been so exquisitely chafed that I didn’t actually notice any pain until hot water ran onto it in the shower, I would have been been standing in that cubicle bent over with laughter. I wasn’t. I was sucking in a breath and trying to avoid the eye of the nice lady standing next to me. I mean, what would I say to her? That wouldn’t get me slapped or thrown out of the gym, I mean.

Chafing issues are something people warn you about but you always forget about them when they haven’t happened for a while. You can avoid them with Vaseline or BodyGlide. I would probably have been able to avoid it if I’d slathered it on down there. The trouble is that I would have needed enough of it to leave a highly suspicious stain on my new breeks. I’d have ended up with one of my mates asking me if I’d a little accident. “Well, you can claim it’s just Vaseline but it certainly looks like you’ve shat yourself.”

I also have the Garmin Scar. The chest strap for my heart rate monitor has left a particularly impressive welt across my breast bone area. You don’t see that in the brochures. No, you see attractive men and women running around, getting a nice glow on (not a euphemism, possibly a special effect) and you don’t see the after effects of a three hour run without first having slapped on the BodyGlide. It’d be enough to put your off your dinner, as if the sight of me topless isn’t bad enough. David Beckham, I am not. Nor am I David Tennant whom I have seen photographed almost wearing his kilt this week. I’m not even Vladimir Putin who would stand more chance of being a gay icon if he didn’t keep saying stupid things about homosexuality and stopped being a complete pillock. I’ve forgotten the Russian for pillock. I hope someone will remind me.

Next week, Week Whatever 2, I’ll do some more running around and I’ll certainly remember to slap on enough Vaseline to excite the Village People and give Vladimir some cause for concern. No more whimpering in the showers for this old man. Nossir.

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Up and down like the Assyrian empire…

I think we’re at the end of week seven. It’s hard to tell. I’ve lost count already. I certainly can’t count to six. I have committed to six runs a week for Jantastic and I’ve only made it on one of the three weeks of January. I was injured a couple of weeks ago and I just haven’t been arsed this week.

I did have a good run at the Folksworth 15 last Sunday. I ran the first 13 miles nice and steadily, digging in a little when I had to and ticking off eight-minute miles. I ran the last two miles at a quicker pace and finished in 1:58:48. Those last two miles really fucked my legs. They had that horrible jiggly feeling all night which kept me awake. The bloody things were still running.

The positives to come from the race were all about just how easy it felt until I got carried away with myself. I picked off some runners in those last two miles who had overtaken me early in the race and were fading. Mile 14 starts at the bottom of the last climb on the course. I ran past one man who was walking, slapped his arm saying “Come on, you can walk at the end.” He said that he would catch me up. He never did.

I know that if some bugger had done that to me, trying to get me to run when I was completely spent, I would be hugely pissed off. So, if that was you, I’m sorry. I’ll probably do it again but I’m sorry anyway.

Lack of sleep has been a feature of the week. It was jiggly legs on Sunday night but just stupidity the rest of the week which meant I didn’t get to bed terribly early on two or three occasions and my itinerary which had me swearing at the alarm most mornings. I need a lot of sleep and it’s something I always forget when there’s an old NCIS or Castle on the telly late at night.

I was out at a Burns’ Night ceilidh last night with Anne. We didn’t get back until gone one. I’d been running round the Ashridge Estate, out along the Ridgeway and up onto Ivinghoe Beacon in the afternoon. 10 hilly and claggy miles. I would probably much rather have gone to bed. We seldom have a night out and this one had been planned for a few weeks.

My tiredness has meant that my mood is all over the place. I was completely trashed this morning and couldn’t face going out with the others for a run after breakfast. I haven’t been able to summon up the energy all day so I’ve canned the run. I’ll be one run short again on Jantastic but I want to start next week properly.

Next week is a new week. Let’s view that as a positive. I can acknowledge the negatives of not hitting targets over the last few weeks and work on those too. That’s a positive too. In the meantime, I’ll have a reasonable dinner and an early night.

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Week 5 Already

Photo credit,  Metropolitan Museum of Art

I was in the steam room at the gym this afternoon. I like stretching in there. The warmth helps relax tight muscles and I feel a lot better for a bit of an extra stretch before I leave the facilities. The steam room and sauna are both newly installed. I really like the sauna; it still smells more like a Norwegian timber yard than a Turkish wrestler’s jockstrap. The wooden benches and wall panels are pale birch or beech and have not yet absorbed the sweat of a hundred thousand hairy arses. It’s all very lovely in there.

The new steam room has little twinkly lights in the ceiling, two prodigiously powerful kettles producing steam enough to fill the long, narrow room and flood lights at ankle-level beneath the tiled seating. The shadows my feet and legs cast against the walls reminded me of images like the one above. I seem to have teeny-tiny feet and ankles below the calves and thighs of a Greek god.

Running form must have changed in the 2,500 years since the unknown artist painted the athletes on the vase in this picture. I don’t think I’d like to see any of my athletes allow their shoulders to counter-rotate quite as much as that and while I like to do a few barefoot drills on a kind surface on a summer’s evening, bare-arse drills would get me arrested.

Week five of marathon training has gone well. Shocker, I know. I had a rest day on Monday then raced on Tuesday in the Ely New Year’s Eve 10k, battling nasty winds to log 46:10 which is a minute and three quarters outside my PB and slightly slower than last year. I had a gentle 14 miles on New Year’s Day, 5 miles of recovery run on Thursday, a very tiring 18 miles on Friday after work and a blessedly regenerative 5 miles yesterday evening. The last few miles on Friday evening were hard but I couldn’t slow down to the comfortable shuffle I wanted because I was running through the city. Suppose someone I know had seen me? I wasn’t going to let that happen so I kept running at a nice even pace and tried to look good even if I wasn’t going very quickly. Runner’s pride is a terrible thing. I did nine of the eighteen miles in Julia DeCesare’s very welcome company. She kept me at a nice, even pace and helped me keep my head straight. I couldn’t quite bring myself to do the extra 6 miles on the plan for today after racing hard this morning but that’s still my biggest ever week of training.

I never enjoy racing in the County Cross-Country Champs. It always comes too soon. I haven’t done any really hard, fast running in what feels like weeks. Tuesday’s race was just a slog in the wind and couldn’t really be counted as a proper session. It was just survival. Christmas gets in the way and obsessing with logging marathon miles gets in the way and what should be an A race turns into an OMG, Already? race. It’s supposed to be 10k but I logged it at 10.7k this afternoon and while that last half mile or so is all downhill, it’s downhill when you’re dying on your arse because your fitness isn’t what it should be and the guys behind are getting closer and the only thing getting further away from you than the guys in front is the fucking finishing line. It just never seems to come until you need another 50m to take another place in which case it’s right there and you cross it in a confusion of relief and despair. Funny thing, racing.

I had someone called Paul from – I think – Riverside Runners up my chuff for the best part of half the race. We each had support on different parts of the course. The race is held in Priory Park in St Neots so it was home turf for Paul and a lot of the marshals come from his club. It’s a good, supportive club because he got a lot of “Go on, Paul, get after him!” or “You’ll catch him, Paul. Keep it going!” I yelled “No, he won’t!” at that one. I’m a lucky man. Because of parkrun, lots of people from different clubs know me so I had lots of support round the course too. It makes such a huge difference. I have friends in clubs and towns all over the county now and just like on Friday night, my runner’s pride wasn’t going to let me look bad.

I finally got away from Paul with about 600m to go. I kicked really hard down the final hill and gradually the sound of his footsteps faded behind me. There were two runners ahead and I was blowing bubbles in a last desperate attempt to close them down. Maybe if I’d pushed harder on the final climb and closed the gap more then, I would have stood a better chance. Whatever, they held me off finishing about five or six yards ahead. It’s hard to tell because I was having blurry vision at the end. There may have only been one runner ahead but I think there were two different colours of vest. The only other time I’ve had blurred vision at the end of a race was the 400m in the Fetch Summer Mile Meeting in Southend when I was chasing Chris Hurcomb down. It’s a bit scary but sometimes you just have to run and trust you won’t actually black out until you cross the line. Besides, the first aiders are at the finishing line, not 200m out so that’s where you have to collapse for the most urgent attention.

I didn’t collapse. I didn’t feel dizzy. I did very badly want to puke and had to find a quiet corner away from everyone until I felt better. That’s how I finish nearly every race. If I haven’t run so hard I want to vom, I haven’t given it everything. When I felt better, I was talking to Christof Schwiening and his daughter, George. He was very generous in his praise. I was grateful to him for his kind words because I look up to him as a runner. George was second overall in her race and won the U20 Girls’ category. I was 95th. I’m happy with that.

Back to work and a normal routine next week. I need to move sessions around on the plan so tomorrow’s rest day becomes a session day, I’ll be coaching on Tuesday and Wednesday becomes a rest day, Thursday get a recovery run and I’ll do my long run on Friday again. I have another race on Sunday, you see. I feel much better today than I did last Sunday. I think I have 13 weeks to go. Bring it on. Bring. It. On.

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Marathon Training, Week 4

The miles are piling up, but slowly, too slowly. I canned Tuesday’s run because I couldn’t fit it in during the day. That was 11 miles gone from the plan. I had a very lovely 14 miles on Christmas day, out to Coton Country Park via Grantchester and Barton and then home through the city centre. It was calm and peaceful. People were emerging from the churches in Trumpington and Grantchester and milling around Great St Mary’s in the city. Mass on Christmas Day was always one of my favourite occasions. Even if I’d been to Midnight Mass, I would get up and head out to church again in the morning. Sometimes, I’d have to because I was serving on the altar but there were times I didn’t have to be there and went anyway.

I pegged a quickish 4 miles in the C&C Boxing Day fun run. My 28:18 was just under a minute quicker than my time in the same run last year. I didn’t go off too quickly for once. In fact, my legs were heavy and I didn’t really get going until the halfway mark. I pulled in a man pushing a buggy in the first 800m back from Trumpington. I saw Margaret Phillips and Chris Hurcomb ahead and thought they would be too far ahead. I pushed a bit harder on the gentle downslope and reeled them both in. I caught Mags with a mile to go and Chris a bit after that. I pushed on again after that because Kris Semple was another few metres ahead and passed him just before we crossed the narrow bridge over the stream on Lammas Land. There was a man pushing a bike onto the bridge just as we passed. I think he held Kris up. I didn’t look back. If you look back you slow down and it gives then man behind hope. I had about 400m to go at that point. Julian Hardyman was ahead and I set off after him but couldn’t close the gap. Each time I kicked, he kicked harder and he beat me home by 4 seconds in the end, accelerating away from me all the while. It took a good 10 minutes to stop feeling ill so I must have given it some in the second half of the race.

I had 9 miles on the plan for Friday. I thought I’d do 5 instead. What with one thing and another, I didn’t really eat all day. Breakfast was late and fried and then I got distracted writing a couple of blog posts and then it was dark and I was grumpy and my blood sugar was through the floor so I didn’t run. Again.

I did my 5 mile recovery run on Saturday in spite of not really having anything from which I badly needed to recover. I had just enough in the tank to take a Strava segment in slippery conditions. I find pushing hard on my own quite difficult and I didn’t want to check my watch while I was running because it might slow me down too much. I just hit a pace which felt quick but sustainable in the conditions and kept going from one end of the segment to the other. There is more to come along there because I wasn’t running anywhere close to flat out and it was very slippery. I think on a spring evening I could take another 20 or 30 seconds off my time along there, especially if I have someone to chase. I could get some clubmates out on a Thursday night and have a good, square go at it.

Today’s run was lovely. The conditions were perfect for a nice, long, steady run. I had 18 on the plan and very good intentions. I ran 13 in the end and it was a real struggle towards the end. The climb up the hill out of Stapleford towards Gog Magog Downs was horrible. I’d wanted to run to the Gogs to meet the others, run a loop with them then run home. Snuggling up next to Anne and the cat seemed like a better thing to do than getting up in time to have breakfast and then heading out the door when it was only just light. Had I done that, I would have done the 18 miles easily because basically I was being a wuss.

I also think that I run better on my own sometimes. I finished my solo Christmas Day run on a high and today’s run in a funk. I don’t always go out unless I have company but then I don’t complete my session if nobody else is doing the same sort of distance. It’s a bit of a sod. I’m sure I’ll be able to come to some sort of compromise where I meet people to start the run but do more of it on my own. I don’t want to sound graceless because I did enjoy everyone’s company today. I need to fix my motivation to the sticking place and complete the sessions the way I need to. It was just too easy to stop when everybody else did today.

Week 5 starts tomorrow with a rest day. The weather is supposed to be foul anyway. It’s nice to have a proper excuse for once.

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Marathon Training, Weeks Two and Three

Oh God. Man was born to suffer. It’s true. I’ve been in hiding in my Happy Place, a rictus grin fixed on my face in an attempt to fool my brain into thinking it’s all fine. It so very, very isn’t. I’m logging miles like a Morris Minor driven by a woman with hairy ears and a floral hat. S-l-o-w-l-y.

My long runs have been a little short but nothing too dreadful. I raced 5 miles and went out later to do another 10 later in the day one week and then did 25km the following Sunday. Both distances are a little less than were on the plan but I felt okay running them. I bonked* last week after 23k and ran out of gels so I stopped when I got back to the car instead of going past it for another mile and then running back which had been my plan.

(*Note for non-runners, bonking is a lot less fun than you’d think.)

Weekdays have been stressful and horrible and filled with what can only really be described as My Job. My Job has dragged me round the country quite a lot or had me damaging my fertility under a hot laptop or sitting in a meeting room in a hotel for so long my legs were like jelly. That’s a funny expression, isn’t it? I used to really love jelly. Jelly came in colours but not in flavours. Red jelly was always my favourite and green jelly would always be left until there was no alternative. Anyway, as much as I love jelly, I don’t really like the feeling of wibbly-wobbliness my legs have after an entire day spent in a meeting room.

Nothing quite saps motivation quite like long, long drives. In the past couple of weeks I’ve been to Manchester and Newcastle and back on consecutive days because I needed to get back to Cambridge to coach at the club. It’s not the same as other ways of draining energy. You need to stay alert to all the other bastards out there intent on killing you on the road. That’s a special form of anxiety and it really nibbles at your ability to function as an athlete or a coach at the end of the trip.

I wanted to run early in the mornings for an hour or so but I didn’t have the energy for that. I ran on Tuesday evening for five and a half miles and Wednesday for about eleven and a bit. Wednesday’s run was the first one that felt good: Ealing to Kew then up the river to Richmond Lock and back to Ealing via Brentford. I was bumping along, ticking off each kilometer in five and a half minutes whenever I didn’t have to cross a road. It felt easy mostly because it was. I’m definitely an evening runner though. You morning people are all weird.

I’m parkrunning tomorrow then maybe doing a few more miles on my own. My long run on Sunday is only 15 miles but I might do more depending on how I feel. Plans are like drunken promises, after all – made only to be broken.

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Marathon Training, Weak One

Did you see what I did there? Did you? Did you? It was quite rubbish, wasn’t it? Oh well, the only way is up. The first week of my marathon training has not gone well. I’ve been doing a good impression of the bastard offspring of Coffin Henry and Bob Fleming. My cough has developed a personality of its own. It’s a solid, traditional character; John Bullshit, maybe. It has however given me an excellent excuse to eat Pantagruellian quantities of ice cream in an effort to stave off the sore throat. Given the choice between a couple sad, wee, wee-flavoured Strepsils (other wee-flavoured lozenges are available) and a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig bowl of Green & Black’s vanilla or chocolate, what would you do?

The cough has kept me awake at night all week. Bastard thing. I’ve had about four hours of sleep each night. I’ve also made return day trips to Manchester and Newcastle on consecutive days. I’d be knackered in the normal course of events this week with my normal training load and even though I haven’t kicked up to 55 miles immediately, I have done three hard sessions, a race and a long run in the past seven days and my legs are mashed as a result.

I’m following the P&D 55-70 miles plan. The plan says 50 miles next week but that would not be sensible at this stage for me. I need to add miles again next week so I am closer to 40 miles than the nadge over 30 I did this week. I also need a rest day or two. I’ll drop a couple of miles off each session next week and swap things around so I can train with Alan tomorrow.

Anyway, let’s hope for a better Week Two because Weak One was horrible.

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Marathon training starts tomorrow and I don’t mind telling you that I’m bricking it. I don’t have a happy marathon history. I’ve only completed two of them, Moray in 2011 and London in 2012. I started Edinburgh in 2012 but DNFed and didn’t even reach the start line of Amsterdam in 2012 due to injury and idiocy. (I continued to run long after I knew I was too broken to run. Idiocy, as I said.) I’m running the Greater Manchester Marathon on 6 April next year as the first step towards qualifying so I can run the Boston Marathon as a 50th birthday present for myself. It’s an odd thing to want to do but there are worse mid-life crises to have.

26 miles, 385 yards is a sod of a long way to run and training for it takes a lot of time. I’ll rack up the best part of 900 miles in the next 18 weeks if I follow the plan fully. I’ll wear out a pair of road shoes just training for the race, or I will if I do all my training on the road. I’ll probably do at least half my long runs off road, round Wimpole or on the Roman Road, Fleam Dyke and the Devil’s Dyke. I should probably get myself a new pair of road shoes and possibly a pair of race shoes. I go very well in my inov-8 Bare-X. I did 5 miles in them last night and it felt easy and light. my 12 miles today were off-road round Wimpole estate for the most part and hard work. I was very tired by the end.

I could be quite pessimistic about my prospects of hitting my targets on the basis of today’s run but that would be daft. I’m at the beginning of the process, not at the end. I’m not marathon fit but I shall be in four months’ time. Manchester or Bust is not the most inspiring of slogans but it’ll have to do for now.

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On The Drowning Of Rats And Nakedness In Toilets

Went for a run this morning with Paul. It was pissing it down when we set off just after nine. I love running in the rain; it keeps you cool when you’re working hard. We weren’t working all that hard today. It wasn’t that sort of run. We were trotting along through the wind and the rain, ticking off six minute kilometres. The wind made things a little more difficult than they ought to have been.

There is a particular combination of wind and rain which can make running a complete misery. We were lucky today in that the wind and rain kept just missing that particular combination. It was a damn near run thing at a couple of points. There was a moment as we were running back along the top of a ridge just the wrong side of a hedge line for about half a mile. The wind blew the rain across us and just for a few seconds straight through us in a denial of the laws of physics and common decency. it was easier for us to keep going in one another’s company. I don’t think I would have gone out on my own in those conditions.

I had an equipment failure too. The zip on my rain jacket kept sliding down without me noticing. It’s not a great piece of kit, if I’m honest. It’s barely showerproof so today’s conditions were always going to test it. I’d be running along and glance down and the zip would be almost completely undone. I have an ongoing problem with zips. I’ve turned into one of those men whose flies are continuously undone because I forget to do them up in the morning when I pull my trousers on. I don’t notice until I head for the loo. No matter how many times I say “Oh fuck” to myself when I discover that, I never remember to check before I have my coffee.

My foot began to hurt again after about four miles so we cut our run short. It’s frustrating. I can run more quickly uphills than down them just now. The braking forces through my right foot cause me to slow down. too much. I don’t trust it enough to run hard downhill and going slowly causes even more pain. We looked like drowned rats when we arrived back at the stable block. It’s a funny phrase that. I’ve never seen a drowned rat. I’ve seldom seen a dry one either. I know they’re around, like paedophiles or UKIP councillors but we have little to offer one another so we seldom encounter one another. Paul said he would take a photograph to mark the moment but he set off to do a little more running while I headed to the loo to get changed.

I found myself naked in a public toilet (not for the first time but I’m not ever going to be drunk enough to tell that story.) I had a change of clothing in my bag. I headed for the sole cubicle in the gents and began pulling layer after sopping layer off before I started to chill and shiver. I was quickly naked in the loo, rummaging through my bag looking for a pair of boxers. Happily there were two pairs in there, alongside two pairs of socks, my jeans, a t-shirt and a jersey. There wasn’t a shirt but that wasn’t a problem. There wasn’t a belt for my jeans and that was more problematic. I will happily contemplate spending ninety quid on running shoes or two hundred or more on a new Garmin but baulk at the thought of blowing £20 on a pair of jeans from Tesco. As a result, all my trousers are too large for me now I’ve lost weight. It’s been three years and I don’t think I’m going to put that weight back on now. Even so, I’m not all that keen on throwing the baggy trousers out and buying more. I have only one belt which is small enough to hold them up now too and that was on my bedroom floor and not in my bag.

Paul and I had our sausage rolls and hot drinks in the restaurant when he returned from his extended trot. My foot stopped hurting quite quickly which was a relief. It’s sore now, as I write. When I flex my toes up, there is a tightness across the top of my foot. I need to get rid of that before I run again. I’m due to race next weekend in the Fenland 10 in preparation for the St Neots Half Marathon next month. I don’t think that’s going to happen now. I’ll probably rest my foot now for two weeks and cycle instead to keep my fitness up while my foot heals itself again.

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Inhalers Go In The Other End

I’ve had a couple of disappointing races recently. The fourteen and a half miles down the A143 to a town called Scrotum – or something like that – in the Round Norfolk Relay were in the middle of a damp night. I had an asthma attack. That interfered with things just a bit. Then I ran out of energy and had to have a word with myself just to get going again. The Bourn to Run 10k on Sunday was also a bit of a struggle. I’ve enjoyed it the last couple of years and it’s my PB race. I just didn’t have much oomph at the weekend. I’ll blame my flu jab and my sore feet for falling short of last year’s time with 45:14. I worked hard for it if you go by the length of time I spent retching into a hedge at the finish. I’m racing again on Sunday in the wonderfully-named Wimpole Half Marathon Hoohah. It’s an off-road course and it’s not flat so it’s not going to be a PB attempt. I’ll treat it as a quickish long run and see what happens.

Last night’s training session was… It was an interesting experience. It’s always an unusual night when your inhaler almost disappears up your bum. Well it is for me. Maybe it’s what you do for diversion of an evening. A warm up, the usual dynamic stretches and drills followed by a 1k time trial which I thrashed in 3:45. I have run that distance more quickly but it felt good. I think my post-jab gronkiness has gone. We followed that with 4 x 1k at a slightly more relaxed but still very brisk pace.

Now, a brief diversion: I was wearing a pair of skin-tight track shorts last night. Nearly all my shorts have a zipped pocket on them where I can stash my car key, inhaler and a tenner in case I need to get home from a long run on the bus or by cab. These don’t so I usually only wear them at the track where I can stash all those things trackside in my race bag. I left my car key with a friend who needed to stash his bag while he was running and who would be back before me and pushed my inhaler into the back of the waistband of my shorts. I couldn’t find the little pouch on a belt

I set off on the third rep having had a quick puff a the end of the second. I was a little rushed and didn’t quite hook the jutty-outy bit over the top of my waistband. I pegged it off up Clerk Maxwell Road and as I started to climb the gentle rise onto Madingley Road where everyone else seems to slow down, I felt the inhaler jiggle down into the back of my shorts. I could have slowed down at that point and fished it out but I’d just worked hard to overtake a couple of other runners and I didn’t want to let them past so I just kept going. The further along Madingley Road I went, the more the inhaler disappeared down until it was nestled uncomfortably between my bum cheeks. There were a couple of moments as I ran down J J Thompson Avenue when I thought the sodding thing was going to work its way up inside me.

I got to the end of the rep with an inviolate anal sphincter and pulled the inhaler out of my  shorts. It was sweaty but not smelly so I tucked it back into place more carefully before I headed off on the final rep. I can’t imagine that even if you were so minded to push an inhaler into your fundament that you’d get much pleasure or satisfaction from it. There are probably better butt plugs out there.

And no, I’m not going to road test any butt-plugs for your amusement.

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